02 February 2009

The proper way to eat a cuttlefish

A new study on dolphins registered elaborate and complex feeding behaviour to turn a cuttlefish into a soft, chewy snack.

In the Upper Spencer Gulf in South Australia, researchers observed and recorded a wild female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) repeatedly catching, killing and preparing cuttlefish for consumption using a specific and ordered sequence of behaviours.

Cuttlefish were herded to a sand substrate, pinned to the seafloor, killed by downward thrust, raised mid-water and beaten by the dolphin with its snout until the ink was released and drained. The deceased cuttlefish was then returned to the seafloor, inverted and forced along the sand substrate in order to strip the thin dorsal layer of skin off the mantle, thus releasing the buoyant calcareous cuttlebone.

As the researchers said ‘this behaviour is a dramatic example of how dolphins, with their relatively unspecialised morphology, can utilise behavioural flexibility to tackle prey items that require substantial handling before consumption...’

Silvia Bonizzoni


Stages of prey handling of giant cuttlefish (Sepia apama) by Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin

For more information:
Finn J., Tregenza T., Norman M. 2009. Preparing the perfect cuttlefish meal: complex prey handling by dolphins. PLoS ONE 4(1):e4217.


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